Baltimore Blast defender Joe Barger said yesterday that he was leaving the team to pursue a full-time career in financial planning after the club was unable to give him a large enough raise.
Barger said he and the Blast were close to $10,000 apart in the amount "I needed to make it my full-time job."
The departure of Barger, along with the earlier decision not to re-sign Tim Wittman, leaves the Blast without any Baltimore-area-born players.
"If I was going to stay 21 all my life [Barger is 24], I could keep on playing," said Barger, who spent two seasons with the team and had five goals, eight assists and 19 blocks as a reserve. "But each year I kept playing with the Blast, I was missing out on my future in the financial world. If I saw any kind of financial future in the league for me, I would have stayed."
Barger also said: "The top salary of $60,000 [in the Major Soccer League] isn't all that good, and the league isn't so stable. I want to make a good living for my family, and Ed [Hale, Blast owner] has talked to me about my options in the business world. He's been real helpful to me, and he's almost single-handedly kept the league going."
Drew Forrester, Blast vice president of soccer operations, said the team offered Barger a raise, but not a large one.
Forrester said the reduction in the team salary cap from $650,000 to $550,000 this season prevented the Blast from offering Barger much of a raise over his second-year salary of approximately $25,000.
"Joe came to me Monday and said this is what I need to play this year, and we couldn't come close to matching it," said Forrester. "It is what it is. Joe and the Blast have parted on good terms, and we are certainly not closing the door on Joe Barger returning some day."
The Blast also announced that former St. Louis Storm midfielder Emil Dragicevic had signed a one-year contract with Baltimore.
Dragicevic, 31, had 14 goals and 14 assists in 41 games for the Storm last season, and his signing continues the Blast's rebuilding with unsung players from other MSL teams. Dragicevic is the eighth player signed this summer from other MSL teams.
"Emil fits the mold of a player we've been looking to add to our team," said Forrester. "He's a hard worker with good skills who comes highly recommended to us by Mike Stankovic, who has watched him play both in St. Louis and in Yugoslavia in recent years."